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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Utah lawmaker wants to ban mail-in ballots and voter registration drives

Phil Lyman
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, is sponsoring a bill to get rid of vote by mail in Utah.

Vote by mail and voter registration drives would be banned under a new bill in the Utah Legislature, H.B. 371. The legislation would also require paper ballots in most cases and require video monitoring of ballot counting. It also eliminates an option to prove your identity at polling locations without having a photo ID, like a combination of utility bill and car registration.

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, is sponsoring the bill and did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In the past, he’s suggested there may be fraud in Utah’s elections — including vote by mail — but was not able to provide any evidence.

The legislation is facing pushback from Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and voting rights groups.

“This is voter suppression,” said Darlene McDonald, the founder of the voting rights group 1Utah Project. “It puts our democracy at risk.”

McDonald said voter registration drives are one of the main ways to increase voter turnout among people of color. She also said requiring in-person voting will make it harder for low-income people to cast their ballot.

“You have to take a day off work without pay to go vote,” she said. “You also have to assume that people have transportation to get there. And that also costs money.”

Henderson agreed that eliminating vote by mail would disadvantage low-income and rural Utahns.

“That is entirely unacceptable and should be unacceptable to anybody,” she said, “because if we are setting that standard for groups of people that we like or we prefer, then we're setting the standard for when other people are in power, for us to be on the flip side of that coin eventually.”

Henderson also said legislation like this could undermine public confidence in elections.

“To have public officials playing into this hysteria and playing into this narrative — the false narrative — that there's somehow a problem,” she said, “a narrative that is driven by people in other states and national interests that have no idea how we actually do things in the state of Utah — is really problematic.”

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said he hasn’t read the legislation yet, but it seems like people really like to vote by mail.

“I have a hard time seeing us completely getting rid of it,” he said. “It's a good time to have a conversation about vote by mail in the sense that — how well is it working? … What could we be doing better?”

In early December 2021, a legislative committee commissioned an audit of “the integrity and accuracy of voter rolls … The legitimacy and security of submitted ballots … [and] the integrity of the systems and processes of election offices.”

Another bill, H.B. 313, adds several new security measures to the state’s election systems. Those include 24-hour video surveillance at ballot drop boxes and requiring voters to write their driver license number, the last four digits of their Social Security number, or their voter ID number on their mail-in ballots. The legislation also requires the lieutenant governor’s office to create new security requirements for election officials to follow regarding the chain of custody of ballots.

According to a poll by Y2 Analytics in May 2021, 82% of Utah voters felt very or somewhat confident that their vote was counted accurately in the latest election.

Corrected: June 1, 2022 at 2:08 PM MDT
This story was corrected to reflect the correct bill number.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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